Concerns about trainee teachers with convictions

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014

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Children are being taught by trainee teachers with drug and assault convictions.

The standards for gaining entry to teachers' colleges are different from those required of registered teachers, meaning some trainees accepted onto courses would never meet the standard for teaching.

Nearly 50 applications for teacher registration were declined by the Teachers Council last year for reasons including convictions, not having the right qualifications and not being of a good character.

But some institutions accepted students with convictions and trained them even though they might not achieve Teachers Council registration.

Victoria University associate dean of early childhood teaching Sue Cherrington said students with convictions who were accepted into teaching courses were given a letter saying they were not guaranteed registration.

"As part of the assessment exercise, we lay out our expectations and make it clear that we expect them to end up being registered, and so they need to practise professional behaviour," she said.

Now, Teachers Council disciplinary tribunal member Patrick Walsh is calling for initial education providers to lift their game.

He said allowing teacher trainees with convictions in the classroom on school placements was not acceptable when they were likely to fail the test of becoming a teacher.

"Priority needs to be given to the health and safety of students in the classroom and I'm sure parents would also see the bar as being set too low."

Walsh, who is also principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, said the creation of the new Education Council, known as Educanz, was an opportune time to better align the criteria for getting into teachers' college with the standard expected of registered teachers.

Education providers were required to vet students applying for teacher training, but that didn't necessarily mean they would be stopped from doing the course, he said.

Secondary Schools Principals Association president Tom Parsons said there was a huge variance between training providers' standards and those in the profession.

"We're in a stupid situation of having education providers dictate what they're going to train the profession in without any industry input."

Teachers Council director Peter Lind said the number of trainee teachers with convictions would be low and most providers did police checks.

The Education Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament last week would address some areas of discipline and competency, Education Minister Hekia Parata said. 

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